31 August 2013

Music Day - Powerhouse

This is perfect rocking-out concert material (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B). Big drums, big hair, great guitar riff, rumbling bass, and Rick Florian.

It starts with with a solid guitar riff, then the drums and bass come in and together they build a great little nest of straight-up rock goodness for Rick's vocals to slide into a few measures later. Halfway through the first verse you begin to hear a little bit of keyboard. Rick himself sounds just a touch edgier than he does on some of the earlier projects -- even the rockier songs on the previous album, Freedom, featured very clean vocals where he was concerned (which, now that I think about it, is precisely why I love this his singing so much. It takes a lot of skill to keep a clean vocal when you're singing Power Tools).

And now back to today's song...

I've always liked that guitar riff sliding down into the chorus, and then the band vocals burst on the scene: 'Pow-er-house!' In the second and subsequent choruses, there's quite a lot going on vocally -- band vocals, backing vocals, Rick's lead...

They take it down (slightly) for eight sets of eight, just long enough to give the song some texture (and add some light keyboard and a sort of otherworldly 'Power...' from Rick), then the guitar chugs back in and blazes through a solo that's loud if nothing else, and then it all stops, everything, and just the band shouts again 'Pow-er-house!'

And with a sparkling keyboard, the chorus kicks back in. I think my favourite part is just at the end of the chorus, that last high hold from Rick (We need the powerhouse...) and then the drum sort of 'stutters' before the guitar comes back in and does kind of a reprise of the solo (it actually sounds a little out of place here, but the sheer passion with which it's played makes it tolerable).

Title: Powerhouse
Artist: White Heart
Album: Powerhouse
Year: 1990
Label: Star Song
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Go ahead, crank it and roll down the window. If anybody asks, it's summer's last hurrah -- those are always allowed to be 1990 arena rock. (Beyond Belief, anyone?)

27 August 2013


My favourite time of day is not night (as many assume due to my tendency to stay up till four in the morning), it's actually dusk.

At dusk, it's not completely dark and you can still see the trees and the outlines of the clouds that only a few minutes ago reflected the sunset.

Dusk is the centre of all the magic. The sunset is just fading, the streetlights are just beginning to be visible, the air is just becoming cool, quiet is just beginning to settle over the land. Dusk is the rare time of day that is equally gorgeous both in the city and the country. And it's fleeting enough that you can never get too used to it.

Around this time of year a lot of my driving happens to take place over sunset and dusk. It's all at the same time on the clock, but thanks to the changing of the seasons I drive around at sunset now and not in the dark or in full sun.

Driving is one of the few times I'm well and truly alone. Sometimes I enjoy it, though sometimes it kills me that no-one is with me. Today I enjoyed it.

Initially I hadn't wanted to go anywhere, but I needed to be at a practice at the church and so I (rather begrudgingly) drove to the church, in full sun. But by the time I left the church to drop off one of the others at her place, the sun had dipped behind the buildings and the trees. By the time I drove up to the last intersection in town, the pale pink sunset was already beginning to fade.

There are two ways home from this intersection. You can turn right and go straight, or you can go straight through now and turn right later. My parents prefer going right at the intersection and then driving straight home, but my love for city lights means I often go straight through the lights.

If you go straight through the lights, just beyond the halfway point between the lights and my turn, there's a little town. At dusk it's mostly closed, but the streetlights are on, the two gas bars are still open, and there's a little pub on one corner which always has coloured lights to stand out against the grey-blue sky.

Even before the town, though, the highway is beautiful. It's lined with trees most of the way. There's one short piece just before the town limits that's nearly closed in with tall pines on both sides of the road, then the trees open up just as the road drops and you go around a bend and over a creek. I often think I've wound up in the mountains, due to the view. It may be nicknamed the highway of death, but at least it's a lovely place. (This was the highway where I had my accident, and I know of at least four others who were also in serious wrecks along this stretch. One was fatal.) On the other side of town the trees thin out, but by then you're preoccupied with the beauty that preceded it.

Songs like Walls Of Doubt and Ghost Of The Heart were playing on my stereo as I headed into (and out of) the little town, complementing the scenery. But then that was the end of that CD and I put in my (shiny brand-new) Dig Here Said The Angel CD, hoping I could hear the title track before I got home.

With some careful speed-limit finessing (which can only be done in the country because city people get angry when you drive slower), I not only got to the third track, I managed to make it last for the entire stretch of road from my second turn to our driveway.

Driving along a gravel road, with headlights barely doing anything to illuminate it (I narrowly missed hitting a porcupine), and listening to that song while watching silhouette trees rise up into the steel-blue sky as a yellowish green light (a remnant of the sunset) illuminates a few sparse clouds to the west is a magic moment. Getting out of the rattletrap right after the song ends and letting that gorgeous chorus melody echo through your mind as you stand in open stillness at the edge of dusk is perhaps even better.

23 August 2013

Music Day (Or, A Probably-Pointless Trip Down Memory Lane)

Last fall and early winter, this was my driving-to-tap-class album. The dance studio is far enough away from our house that I can listen to an entire album on the way there, and another on the way back. Tap was on Monday nights and while the album on the way back would vary, on the way there it was always Don't Wait For The Movie.

The first couple songs were me setting the speed, getting to the highway. By the time I got to the first city lights (I skirt two cities on the way in and enter the third), Fly Eagle Fly would be starting.

Here the magic began. Not so much the song (it's actually kind of a really cheesy song), but the visual... velvet black nightscape dotted with oncoming headlights and the streetlights of the city up ahead. And as I took the ramp onto the main highway, Convertibles would always start to play.

Let The Children Play and King George would mark my time on that highway, following the streetlights for part of the way, and then as I approached the second city and got onto the exit for the ring road I would get to listen to No Apology, and then Maybe Today would always just start as I went under the first overpass on the ring road and into the beginning of the curve. It was always a glorious sort of moment, not in that it was a big dramatic thing, but because the tinkling intro and the quietly-soaring keyboard backing Mark Gersmehl's brooding vocal seemed to be so, so perfect with the glittering streetlights in the endless Alberta night sky. I think this moment was the reason I always, always chose this album on that drive.

As I got to the halfway point on my trip on the ring road, Dr Jekyll And Mr Christian would start, and it would always just be ending as I was coming up across from the second city's skyline. (About halfway through the tap session I noticed that and holy crap I almost had a heart attack the first time I saw it... It was all lit up and so so beautiful -- red and green and blue and purple and streetlight off-white. I hadn't realised you could see the skyline from that road.)

And then I would exit off into the third city (well, not technically a city, though it's big enough to be one) during this, the final song on the album, to kind of calm me down and gently lead me into the dance school's little parking lot. Often I would pull into the parking lot with one chorus left to go, and if I wasn't running terribly late I would stay out in the rattletrap and let the song finish.

Title: How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven)
Artist: White Heart
Album: Don't Wait For The Movie
Year: 1986
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

This album so quickly became my soundtrack for winter night city driving, following the string of streetlights along the highways, stars against a black sky. Several times it was snowing during the drive and I seem to remember one time where it was raining. Once the fog was just so that it caught the streetlights and scattered the light everywhere, lighting up the entire road and the sky above it. It was almost -- though not quite -- like driving in the daytime, so spread around was the light. There was one section on the ring road that randomly didn't have streetlights (still can't figure out why not), and driving through there that night was almost terrifying... the rattletrap isn't exactly known for its great headlights (actually, it's not really known for its great anything, but I digress), and without the light to scatter around, the fog pressed in and blocked the streetlights ahead and the streetlights behind almost completely from view. It was almost completely dark there for about a minute.

Oh, the song? Well -- Rick Florian. That should tell you everything you need to know. It's a good lyric too:
How many times
Have You wept from the anguish of all my shame
How many times
Have I nailed You up on that cross of pain...

It starts out with the concept of protagonist trying to come to terms with the concept of forgiving someone who's wronged him -- knowing it's what Christ has commanded, but struggling to lay aside his pride in order to do so.

But then after the interlude (a lovely simple keyboard bit that capitalises very well on the 'quiet struggle' mood of the song), the protagonist's point of view shifts to his precious Christ on the cross -- did Christ not forgive me of things far more grievous? Who then am I to withhold the grace that shouldn't have even been mine?

The ending is gorgeous. Protagonist is still wrestling with his desire to not forgive and is halfheartedly trying to convince God that 'no really, this is unforgiveable' when he knows better. And to each one of his arguments, a soft voice comes back to him: Seventy times seven.

And finally he is silent in the face of the reminder of simple, powerful love.

Seventy times seven.

(For those wondering what 'seventy times seven' has to do with anything... once, Jesus' disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive somebody who's wronged him. Peter asks, "Is seven times enough?" Jesus (God in the flesh) says, "No, not only seven times, but seventy times seven." The term 'seventy times seven' has since come to be, for better or worse, a 'sacred buzzword' of sorts, a code phrase within the church meaning 'forgiving.' You can read the account of Peter's question and Jesus' answer in Matthew chapter 18, starting at verse 21.)

21 August 2013

The Messenger

The other day my great-uncle died. We knew it was coming, we knew it would likely be before the end of the month, and so it was sad -- although not a shock -- when the phone call came through.

Out of all the many, many relatives I know of, all the great-aunts and uncles who I greet by name if I see them around town, I was closest to this great-uncle. He lived in the next province over, but he and my great-aunt visited frequently and it was always wonderful news to hear that they were in Alberta. He always had a good story (the one about the talking car stands out to me) and some of his funniest sayings are still used in this house today ('For crying in the soup' is a notable one).

His son was with him when he died, and the son said that moments before, his eyes got wide and he smiled -- this huge smile. Even as I type this I can picture it lighting up his face. My dad (who got this story through the grapevine) said as he was telling it, "...so maybe he was seeing Jesus."

I was a bit surprised at the choice of words. Maybe? Only maybe?

Of course I can't prove it, but there's no doubt in my mind that he did see Jesus. I have never in my life met anybody who loved Jesus more than my great-uncle. Jesus was so very precious to him. It was so simple, but that love coloured everything my great-uncle did.

(Cue the part of the post where music shows up to 'help' me make my point.)

The day he died, I listened to the Daniel Amos song Banquet At The World's End. I'd only heard it twice before (once on YouTube and once on the Cephas Hour), and had just bought the album (plus somebody turned on the radio during Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons, so I had to break out the iPod quick lest I suffer permanent brain damage and Banquet... was the first song I saw).

I love this song. I may have only heard it twice, but I'd probably read the lyrics about fifty times by then (yes, I go on the DA website and read random lyrics when I'm bored. Your point...?). Those are such beautiful lyrics -- The poor are coming; The lame are running... There's a harelip salesman shouting out the news: "Come to the banquet at the world's end!" And it's all set to upbeat happy music. I'm seriously considering choreographing this and including a role for a little girl to be 'inviting' people to said banquet. Not sure exactly how it's all going to work, but that's the embryonic idea.

As the song played and then continued to run through my head after it finished, I realised this had been my great-uncle's manifesto throughout his life (or at least most of his adult life). He spent many years going to Europe to preach. I've heard him preach a few times over the years, and he was the kindest preacher you would ever meet. He knew the Bible and would not exchange its truth for any other idea, but he was gentle and kind in his delivery. It wasn't just 'preaching,' though, the way most people think of it. He wasn't just a pulpit-thumper. He lived his life in accordance with everything he said from the pulpit -- the preaching was more like an extension of the way he lived rather than an occupation. To put it perhaps more accurately, he was a messenger, just announcing to anyone who would hear what God has done and is doing. He spent much of his life traveling internationally (without traditional missionary sponsorship) and inviting people, with a simple earnest joy, to come to the banquet at the world's end. (This is exactly the spirit I'm trying to nail down for the little girl in the dance.)

Now, this night, as I type, he is at that banquet. But there is still room for more around the table. And if the 'beautiful people' (as they're called in the song) won't come because 'life' (*cough* money) is too important, there are plenty of poor and lame who can and will, if only they know they're invited.

This poses a challenge to those of us remaining. My great-uncle's work here is done, but that doesn't discount the rest of us. May we -- may I -- take up the cry and run through the alleyways, beckoning to the forlorn figures hiding in the shadows...

Come to the banquet at the world's end!

10 August 2013

Music Day

Seriously? I haven't featured this song yet?

This was the only track I initially liked from the album of the same name (though I thought Ritual was kind of cool too). White Heart hadn't rocked hard like this since Bye Bye Babylon.

Oh, it starts quiet enough... but at about the nineteen-second mark the drum kicks up and then the bass falls in, gritty, crunchy, and most of all loud, with a similarly styled guitar ripping across the top on the seventh beat (dance counts), then the sixth and eighth beats of the next phrase.

Two more sets of eight, and then Rick comes in -- an almost-menacing intimate whisper, the power of his voice just barely restrained as he sweeps up into I don't know your name...

A breath, and control returns, a delicate tip-toe melody now for You've been hanging around for so long at my place...

By the time he sings It's crawling back again to find me and slips up into a desperate near-scream on Get it out of my mind... the song has taken on a slightly creepy feel. 'It' is never explained, though looking at the context of the song I'm picturing something kind of like Lecrae's Indwelling Sin -- the old sinful man trying to regain control of the redeemed human, to the horror of said redeemed human.

I absolutely love the guitars in the chorus -- low, fuzzy, almost static-like. It's a smooth trade-off... the vocal in the verse was heavily processed, but in the chorus it's mostly organic. However, the guitar takes over the fuzzed-out sound, giving the song a subtle change of pace while still feeling consistent.

Then we get the two sets of eight from the beginning again. (Darn it, I'm listening like a choreographer. Brain apparently does not want to shift into music-enjoyment mode.)

Listening to this again, I think this is the lowest I've heard Rick's voice, right there at the beginning of the second verse. He's very dynamic on this song, actually. I'm surprised more people don't quote it as a favourite (because we all know White Heart songs live or die by how spot-on Rick was when they recorded the vocals -- at least the rock ones). He's in fine form here -- almost growling, a touch of sarcastic menace, then screaming high (the word 'wailing' is the closest synonym I have off the top of my head), and it's all done so smoothly. Nearly every line has a different dynamic, and you're hard-pressed to find the transitions. The line You know that's a lie is delivered in a way that calls to mind the fire from Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Christian nine years before, and yet there's a touch of sadness in it -- you know that pained feeling you get when you see someone you love being a total idiot and destroying some aspect of their lives when you know they know better? Yeah. It kind of sounds like he's watching something like that.

Regular readers know that usually I don't pay attention to guitar solos (that or I hate them with a passion... depends if I'm choreographing it or not), but this is a killer solo. The bass and the drums still play behind it, adding power to it, and (thank goodness) it's not one of these presumptuous guitar solos where they just kind of shoe-horned it into the song because every song needs a guitar solo, right? It changes directions partway through, going from straight up rock-guitar-solo to something a little more finessed but equally loud. As the song rocks on, hurtling with reckless abandon to its close, the guitar work becomes rather off-kilter. So now you've got a totally fuzzed-out, not-quite-centered guitar and Rick's clear angelic voice still throwing in some stuff over it. It's perfect.

And then it all comes to an abrupt end with the vocal sliding up and snapping delicately off into nothing and a reverberating guitar chord picking up where the vocal track leaves off, carrying the song to a suspenseful-yet-satisfying ending.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present... Inside.

Title: Inside
Artist: White Heart
Album: Inside
Year: 1995
Label: Curb Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.


02 August 2013

Music Day

It's my birthday today and you know what that means... it's White Heart Month here at the Edge Of The Dream! (Provided, of course, that the iTunes Store actually has five White Heart songs that I haven't already featured.)

The other day I was listening to White Heart's Freedom album on my iPod. It's a totally different experience on the iPod -- headphones always make the mix sound better anyway, but this specific album is heaven on earth through headphones. Plus, this album just means so, so much to me -- track two, Sing Your Freedom, has gone down in this blog's history as the first piece of choreography I ever completed, Eighth Wonder holds the distinction of being the first piece of my choreography to be publicly performed, and the phenomenal opener Bye Bye Babylon was the song that catapulted White Heart firmly into the slot of 'My Favourite Band Ever Of All Time.' I listen to my CD copy of the album that I ripped from my mother's well-loved cassette at least twice a week, probably more.

I rarely listen to it on my iPod though. Usually I listen to my iPod when choreographing a specific song, and I tend to listen to full albums on CD as I'm driving places in the rattletrap.

However, Freedom is different on the iPod not because of sound quality, but because of the tracklist. As I mentioned, my Freedom CD was originally a tape. Then, several months after I created it, I found out that the original CD release of the album had an extra track sandwiched in between The River Will Flow and Let It Go, a track which I assume was excluded from the cassette and vinyl releases due to time constraints (though don't quote me on that). iTunes had the track (for once -- pause while we give sarcastic applause), but I'd already burned the CD and didn't want a perfectly good CD to go to waste. So I still listen to the cassette version but because I'm a purist, I have the official CD tracklist on the iPod.

So the other day as I was listening to the album on my iPod, I suddenly went 'holy crap I forgot about this song!'

Title: Set The Bridge On Fire
Artist: White Heart
Album: Freedom
Year: 1989
Label: Sparrow
iTunes here; YouTube here.

This is a freaking good song. Guitar, bass, keys, drums... everyone is in top form here. The interlude is one of the best I've ever heard. It's not just a standard 'insert guitar solo here' deal, every instrument gets to play. The synth, real soft and gentle (yet it manages to be stately) and then the guitar rips through and the bass and a different guitar comes in and then...

There's even a great little acoustic guitar riff at the end of each verse. The rest of the song is hardcore rock, but somehow they make that little acoustic bit work.

Even the rhythm is great -- driving, and not quite centered.

Fans often cite this as one of Rick's best vocal performances to date (along with Desert Rose, How Many Times, Dr Jekyll And Mr Christian, Sing Your Freedom, Unchain, et cetera et cetera...), and the title is well deserved. He simply soars here. It sounds so effortless.

Lyrically, the song makes some good points. It doesn't beat the visual to death, but it explores it just enough to make you really think about it. Do you really want to live forever in that headspace of regretting the things you've done, the times you've messed up?

Great message. Phenomenal performance. If you only own one White Heart song, this should be a contender.